DearColleague.us

Letter

Sending Office: Honorable Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.
Sent By: Evelyn.Knapp@mail.house.gov

SIGN ON:

Encouraging HHS to increase access for the adult hepatitis B vaccine

Dear Colleague,

As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus, we request your support in urging the Department of Health and Human Services to address the need for increased adult hepatitis
B vaccination coverage, which is currently only at 25 percent, and for greater awareness of hepatitis B vaccination among providers and the general public.

Up to 2.2 million individuals in the United States are currently infected with chronic hepatitis B, and as many as two-thirds of those individuals are unaware of their infection. Hepatitis
B is a viral infection of the liver transmitted via blood and other body fluids, including mother-to-child transmission and injection drug use. Hepatitis B is one of the leading causes of liver cancer.

The hepatitis B vaccine was the first anti-cancer vaccine to be developed and significant progress has been made with childhood vaccination against hepatitis B in the United States.
However, low vaccination rates among adults have contributed to recent alarming rises in acute hepatitis B infections. Nationwide, newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis B rose 20 percent in 2015, with significant regional rises largely driven by the opioid crisis.

There is great opportunity to stem the rise in new hepatitis B infections in the United States and achieve hepatitis B elimination by significantly increasing hepatitis B vaccination.
We ask that you join us in sending the following letter to the HHS, urging them to address the need for greater awareness and increased rates of adult hepatitis B vaccination, in order to reduce the number of new hepatitis B infections and related deaths in
the United States.

For more information or to sign-on to this letter, please contact Evelyn Knapp in Congressman Hank Johnson’s office (evelyn.knapp@mail.house.gov)
or Jacqueline Hsieh in Congresswoman Grace Meng’s office (jacqueline.hsieh@mail.house.gov).

 

Sincerely,

Rep. Hank Johnson                       Rep. Grace Meng 


Date

 

Tammy R. Beckham, DVM, PhD

Director, Office on HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

C Street SW, Room L001, 330

Washington, DC 20024

 

Dear Dr. Beckham:

We write to encourage you to implement plans to increase vaccination rates against hepatitis B among adults in the United States. Hepatitis B is a disease that has no cure, making
vaccination efforts even more essential to prevent people from suffering from this potentially deadly disease.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver transmitted via blood and other body fluids, including mother-to-child transmission and injection drug use. Individuals with diabetes,
HIV, hepatitis C, chronic liver disease, and those on hemodialysis are at an increased risk of being infected with hepatitis B. Without proper care, 1 in 4 individuals with chronic hepatitis B will develop liver cancer, cirrhosis and/or liver failure.

Currently, up to 2.2 million individuals in the United States are infected with chronic hepatitis B and as many as two-thirds of those individuals are unaware of their infection status.
Hepatitis B is one of the leading causes of liver cancer. Those with unmanaged chronic hepatitis who develop liver cancer only have an 18 percent 5-year survival rate in the United States.

In recent years, the U.S. has seen a concerning increase in acute hepatitis B infections. Nationwide, newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis B rose 20 percent in 2015, with significant
regional rises, largely driven by the opioid crisis in conjunction with extremely low vaccination rates. More awareness and promotion of adult hepatitis B vaccination would alleviate this problem.

The hepatitis B vaccine was the first anti-cancer vaccine to be developed. Significant progress has been made with childhood vaccination against hepatitis B in the United States since
clinical guidelines recommended universal childhood vaccination starting in the 1990s. The hepatitis B vaccine has proven to be 95 percent effective and is projected to have prevented 310 million cases of hepatitis B worldwide by 2020. Despite its success,
adult hepatitis B vaccination rates have remained low for those born before the 1990s in the United States.

Although safe and effective vaccines to prevent hepatitis B are available, only 25 percent of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated against this disease. We urge the Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS) to commit to increasing adult hepatitis B vaccination rates and promoting provider and community awareness on the  hepatitis B vaccination, as well as maintaining childhood hepatitis B vaccination coverage, and supporting
hepatitis B testing and linkage to care.

In order to reduce the number of new hepatitis B infections and hepatitis B related deaths in the United States, we urge HHS to coordinate across its agencies and collaborate with
national and community-based organizations, state and local health departments, and providers in: (1) developing and implementing a plan to improve low adult hepatitis B vaccination rates across the country, and (2) promoting awareness about the importance
of hepatitis B vaccination among medical and health professionals, communities at high risk, and the general public. We appreciate your attention to this issue, and request responses regarding how you plan to address these concerns by September 2, 2019.

 

Sincerely,

 

Hank Johnson                                          Grace Meng

Member of Congress                              Member of Congress 

 

 

 

cc:
Carolyn Wester
, MD, MPH, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, CDC;
Melinda Wharton, MD, MPH, Director, Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC

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